Tuesday, 3 May 2016

TransatBakerly 2016

If there’s one thing I’ve learned...it’s that deep down in your heart, if you have a dream, then you can and must make it happen.” – Ellen MacArthur
 
 
Yesterday we enjoyed a lovely, but soggy, walk to watch some very fast boats quickly become little dots on the horizon. It was the culmination of a weeks build up to the 2016 TransatBakerly. Setting off from Britain’s Ocean city, the fleet will sail 3,000 miles to New York .
 
Fenders left behind on the empty pontoons
 
 
This is the route followed in 1960 when a group of 5 British sailors had a bet about sailing across the Atlantic the hard way; into the prevailing winds and swell. The bet became a race and then became the mother of all solo ocean races leading on to many more challenges for the elite of ocean racers. These boats and their skippers are the fastest in the world. Where Tarquilla bimbles along at 4 knots, the top sailors will reach speeds of 30 knots+. Although the support teams are big and a lot of background work goes into these endurance challenges, during the race itself it is as Major Blondie Hasler said ‘one man, one boat, one ocean.’
 
 
 
Plymouth is a great place for racing as the Sound creates an amphitheatre giving thousands of people the chance to watch from the banks of two different counties and the breakwater creates a definitive start/finish line. It is big business with sponsors putting on a show for the start and finish of races where people can admire the boats and enjoy the atmosphere. We have had the maxi-tris moored next to us. Giant beasts 100 foot long and towering over the pontoons. The teams have been friendly and kept very busy working on – and under – the boats preparing them for the race right up to the final morning.
 


 
The organisers arranged an education programme in the preparation week involving boat building apprentices, colleges and local schools. The two eldest deckhands went off with the school sailing club for a tour of the village and a talk by the skippers which they thoroughly enjoyed. STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and maths) are in high demand in the workplace but are less popular choices for students and this was a trip planned to open up many pathways to the future.

 
 
Arkems from Port Medoc, Gironde
 
 
Sailing alongside the modern boats (The innovative Macif was completed in Summer 2015) are iconic veterans from the Pen Duick class. The win by Eric Tabarly in the 1964 Transat in Pen Duick II is credited with bringing enthusiasm for ocean sailing to France. In this years race 80% of the crews are French and many British sailors travel to mainland Europe for training.
 
 
The 2000 Transat was the race which shot Dame Ellen MacArthur to fame. A relatively unknown 23-year-old British sailor at the time she took on and beat the best, showing her amazing ability on the water to the surprise of many.
 
 
The big trimarans dwarf most of the boats around them
 
Whereas the first race saw the winner, Sir Francis Chichester, crossing the line after an amazing 40 days in Gypsy Moth, the fast maxi-tri’s are expected to reach America in around a weeks time. It has been great to see some boats that we saw on our travels including Arkema from Medoc and Actual that we met in Brest.
 
Bon Vent to all the Skippers and boats taking part this year. Lets hope that it is an exciting and safe race for them all.
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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